“And despite everything the body remains … [and] the headaches [too].” Rereading and understanding the connections in Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric

We have already talked about the importance of the content and the way Claudia Rankine develops her own story in her own way, making the reader feel involved in the situations she is depicting. Citizen: An American Lyric, as we know, is divided in different parts that differ from one another in the way they are written: sometimes paragraphs that portray different racism acts, sometimes stories that require more explanation, as for instance, the Serena Williams’ one… 

Today I would love to go a little bit further and get a bit deeper in the meaning and transcendentalism of the book by analyzing the different images she is using and the different connections we need to understand by the language she is using.

I will start by the very beginning, the cover of the book:

The purpose of Rankine’s “lyric” is to address how prevalent racism is and how we all participate in this. She wants us, the readers, to understand and feel uncomfortably aware of every single act of discrimination, to read what she has to say in two ways: as the victim, and as the oppressor. She tries, and success, with every little detail. 

The cover is the first part of a book we encounter… what does this imply? In an interview with The Believer, the interviewer states he associates the image with slavery, Rankine then explains “it’s a hoodie that the conceptual artist David Hammons made in 1993, two years after the Rodney King beating”, who was a survivor of an act of police brutality. Then the author talks about the murderer of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old student that was shot in 2012, she claims that “the sense that he brought on his own death by dressing like a hood, made many believe Hammons made the piece in response to his murder. But Hammons knew or knows already.” Let’s focus on these last words. Rankine wants the reader to understand that racism and racist acts transcend beyond time and space, and, as she presents along her work, are still present today.

As we read the first pages, we find the quote “If they don’t see happiness in the picture, at least they’ll see the black” found in a documentary by Chris Marker that deals with issues of the nature of human memory and how personal and global histories affect us. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBYY9LSxylw) When I was rereading the book for the second time, it caught my attention the similarity of this passage and the one in page 46: “Obviously this unsmiling image of you makes him uncomfortable, and he [, the friend she is addressing] needs you to account for that.” (Rankine) This made me think of the relevance of that first line, as the incompatibility of happiness and being black is stated, and will be proved though the book. 

Images continue being a crucial part of this book, and this section we find only three, but I will address two:

*I can’t paste the second picture, but it is the one in page 74*

These two images have a double duty, first of all, they make the reader feel uncomfortable and uncertain of what is going on as we don’t really understand the meaning of the second one or why the first one is written the way it is written and what she wants us to get from the message. And also, by using these images, Rankine wants us to realize the importance of the contrast of colors, as they are the first pictures in black and white that we find in the book; the first one presenting a text written in black on a white background that slowly degenerates and stars being unreadable but that presents a pattern of two sentences that reads “I do not always feel colored… I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background.” This message makes us pay attention to a black text in a white background in an ironic way, since all the book is written in the same way: black typing on white pages; but she wants us to pay attention specifically to this one image, and she wants us to realize how the letter start to fade. On the other hand, the second image is challenging this, the common thought of a white background and black images on it, as it is presented the other way round.  

I would also like to address the different connections the author has been using with language through this section, she continues paying attention to Serena Williams’ story, but this time she wants the reader to feel what she is feeling, Rankine is comparing the feelings and frustration of the tennis match Williams lives with feelings in reality, a daily fight: a match that transcends; as we see in these examples: “The ball isn’t being returned. Someone is approaching the umpire. Someone is upset now.” (Rankine 64), “though you can retire with an injury, you can’t walk away because you feel bad”. (Rankine 65)

I also find very interesting the way Rankine talks about headaches in a figurative way. In page 61 we find out “the headaches begin” (Rankine), in page 62, “the headaches remain” (Rankine), and, finally, in page 69 “despite everything, the body remains” (Rankine)… she is addressing how tiring the daily fight gets, how these “headaches”, this pain, begin… and remain; but, in spite of the pain and the memory, the body remains, she stands still, and so does every victim of discrimination.

I have been paying attention to the imagery and pictures of this section, and my question is, do you think the images play such an important role? How do you think they work in the context of the whole book? Do the images break the ideas or the feelings you have while reading the text… or do they intensify them? And also, during this months, we have been addressing the importance of storytelling and having a voice, Rankine is aware of it as she indicates in page 61 when she compares narrative to creating lives. How do you think she is employing the act of telling stories? Do you think her method is effective? Why (or why not)?

Bonus:

Here is the link to Rankine’s website just in case you want to learn a bit more: http://claudiarankine.com/

Bonus (II): 

I found this caricature of Serena Williams and I just wanted to leave it here and see what you all think

Works Cited:

Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: An American Lyric. Graywolf Press, 2014.

The Believer interview: https://believermag.com/logger/2014-12-10-i-am-invested-in-keeping-present-the-forgotten/

Diversity conference

Hello everybody!

I just wanted to let you all know that I will be speaking in the 10th annual student conference on diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice that will take place on Saturday, April 13 in Corey Union (I still don’t know the exact time of my presentation but the whole conference with its different presentations is from 8 am to 4 pm)

The title of my presentation is: Breaking the Stigma: the Importance of Teaching Sexual Diversity in Schools

And the description of it is:

Our stories make us who we are, and we cannot make anybody’s story unheard. The most important fact to keep in mind when we teach young students in schools is that each and every one of them are different and unique, but we are all the same; not better, nor less… Being aware of sexual diversity so as to provide a safe and accepting environment for students is the only way to let them tell their own story. I have my story, and it’s the story of a generation, what about you?

I will leave here the link where you have to sign up before April 1 if you want to come: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdUD6OoHE9ZIUulZQpa0RHUw7ezbQ9KWDvpzkFe1RKaHKFEBw/viewform

Thank you!

Not So Black and White – How are YOU supposed to feel in Citizen?

The role of the narrator plays a crucial role in telling a story and how that story is interpreted. Claudia Rankine uses the less common method – by immersing the readers themselves into the story – in order to fully engage her audience in Citizen. Just as the other blog posters Lilly and Stephanie have addressed, this engagement with the readers disregards characteristics of the individuals such as their race, gender, sexuality, etc. Rankine places the readers in scenarios in which they’d feel uncomfortable, ostracized and ideally, give the readers an insight as to what racism feels like in all definitions of the word. The book challenges these feelings, particularly anger, and by placing “you” in the middle, one can’t help but wonder how to handle the situation.

                The first eighteen pages demonstrate awkward situations that should evoke many feelings from the readers, ranging from humility to anger. An example from the text which evokes this feeling includes: “You think maybe this is an experiment and you are being tested or retroactively insulted or you have done something that communicates this is an okay conversation to be having” (11). You are meant to feel angry by this situation. People of color are being ostracized and deemed as not as “great” of writers as the implied white people are. Perhaps the acquaintance is naïve in regards to racism, or they find that you’re an exception because you’re not like other people of color (yet another racist implication). Whether or not the acquaintance in your situation is intentionally being racist, this still ignites anger.

                Let’s imagine we’re in Serena Williams’ situation (or to follow along with Rankine’s narrative, let’s say you are in her situation). You’re talented, athletic, and to suggest you’ve worked tremendously hard to be where you are now is an understatement. You’re doing everything you physically and mentally can to win, however there are people who want to see you fail because of the color of your skin. They insinuate you’re making bad calls and yet no one notices this except for the umpire. How would you respond to that? How would you feel and how would you manage those emotions during an important play? You can’t pause life to react accordingly. Feelings aren’t black and white. Rankine writes “John McEnroe, given his own keen eye for injustice during his professional career, was shocked that Serena was able to hold it together after losing the match” (27). Serena did her best to compose herself amidst a racist fallacy. She later admits that she was “angry and bitter” and felt “cheated” (27). During her career she is notorious for outrages, throwing her racket, and shouting. She later learns to co-exist with her anger – the majority of that anger is most likely due to the racism and politics of the sport – but it doesn’t just occur in the court. It appears that Serena uses this racism as a driving force and despite it all, she wants to make America proud, and yet she must work twice as hard and control her somehow unjustified feelings in the meantime.

                The ball is not in her court. How is someone supposed to react to this kind of racism? You’ve worked hard and dedicated your life to this sport, but something you have no power over is going to determine your success.

 The two articles we read for Wednesday connect to Citizen. Which one do you think Serena Williams’ control on her anger connects to more? Which emotions did you feel (or if you didn’t feel much, what were you intended to feel) during the first eighteen pages of Citizen? How would you handle this kind of anger; would it be discouraging or would you use it as a driving force to prove them wrong?

Connection to Color

Claudia Rankine immediately introduces her audience to a personal anecdote of her youth. Ofen in literature, readers find it very hard to connect to something they have never experienced, yet Rankine makes this objective easy to obtain. She gets very personal with her readers, taking them to a memory that greatly impacted her life, and continues to even years after its occurrence. It is normal to wonder why we are getting thrown into this story. It is also common to think about the reasoning behind Rankine’s direct address to the audience.

In the story, Citizen, Rankine makes multiple references to the audience. She does this by introducing the idea of “you”. By doing so, Rankine is pulling us all in, thus forcing us to connect. I use “force” because without this aggressive nature, many would not even consider relating to the life of the author. Rankine wants us to see life through the experiences that she has overcome. She places us in the middle of her anecdotes, throwing us into a world that many of us would not know. This then opens up a new door of interpretation and understanding.  The use of the pronoun “you” is rather ambiguous. Rankine does not know the audience, yet she involves them in her story regardless of their race or gender; it can be applied to anyone. But to me, that is simply her point; it doesn’t matter your race nor gender, but only that YOU understand the string of stories coming from years of experienced racism. Rankine wants the readers to realize the harsh effects this reality had, and still has, on her everyday life.

The color of her skin has separated her from other children throughout her childhood. Even as a young girl, Rankine would experience backhanded remarks. At 12 years old, she is told that she “[has] features like a white person” by another young (white) girl in her class (5) As a child, Rankine does not know how to interpret this, so sadly enough, she understands it as a thank you in return for letting this girl cheat off of her test (5). 12 years old… these are the things running through the minds of a 12 year white girl. And Claudia, naive and unable to detect the blatant racism, received this as a thank you. Racism is not innate, it is taught. Another example is when a young girl tries to take ownership of the seats on the plane, stating, “these are our seats” while the look on her face gives way to how she really feels– she really does not want to sit next to an African American woman on the plane (12). The mother, clearly sensing her daughter’s uncomfort, does not correct her actions, but condones them by saying that she’ll “sit in the middle” so that her daughter doesn’t have to sit next to this woman (12).

Through these narrated experiences, Rankine uses the pronoun “you” to create a variety of emotional experiences in the reader as they interpret the story. How did you feel when reading this opening stories? How did you react to Rankine’s direct address? More importantly, what emotions does it pull out of the reader? Is it anger, or maybe even disgust? Rankine throws “you” into her experiences because she wants the reader to feel the discomfort she experiences on a daily basis. She wants this to provoke an uncomforting feeling. If this in fact does happen, Rankine succeeds in her goal of forcing the reader to connect to experiences. These introductory stories are supposed to provoke an uneasy feeling. If you look at these stories and scowl in disgust, Rankine has done her job in making you a part of her experiences.

Color in a Black and White World

Color and images are something that make up our day to day life. From aesthetically pleasing pictures to differentiation between the bright lights we see at an intersection. But why is it when it comes to skin color, people aren’t so nonchalant and appreciative of it? Why does seeing darker skin turn an automatic switch in some people to forget all their morals?

Claudia Rankine’s story called Citizen shines a light on the reoccurring themes of color, images, and visual perspectives. Including the personal pronoun “you” throughout her story, she invites the readers, no matter the skin color, to share the experience of a black woman. With her black and white book cover, she forces the reader to experience the color throughout the book between skin colors of the main character and the skin color of whoever they encounter. Rankine starts off the story with a narrative of a young black girl in school. Rankine illustrates that a young white classmate “tells you you smell good and have features more like a white person. You assume she thinks she is thanking you for letting her cheat and feels better cheating from an almost white person” which starts off on a low note that forces the audience to feel the same defeated emotions of the young black girl.

As Rankine puts the readers in her shoes, it evokes a level of discomfort because as a twelve year old, you too would be unaware of how to answer and feel as your heritage and skin color became invalidated from the opinion of a privileged classmate. Irritation and uneasiness is also prevalent through such gruesome imagery such as “The wrong words enter your day like a bad egg in your mouth and puke runs down your blouse,” which is exactly what Rankine and other black women in her position feel. Referring back to Sara Ahmed’s “Feminist Killjoys and Other Willful Subjects”, if any women were to be put into the situation of being oppressed, it would be an internal battle for a woman to stand up and subject to being a “killjoy” or sit back to remain the peace, even if it meant feeling badly.

Rankine quotes Zora Neale Hurston that says “I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background,” meaning that she feels the most out of place when surrounded in a white and privileged setting. Rankine utilizes Serena Williams and her “black body” to emphasize this theme of color the author so desparately wants the audience to understand through hardships. It’s easy, when reading this line, to envision a white and spotless room and suddenly a black splatter hits the wall. From there, all the human eye will continue to focus on is that splatter on the one wall instead of the other three. It stands out, but in the case of the splatter, it may feel uncomfortable and pressured.

To wrap up her continuance of color and imagery, on page 32 Rankine says, “Every look, every comment, every bad call blossoms out of history, through her, onto you” which whether purposefully or not, juxtaposes with the picture on page 33 of a dark figure, weighed down by blossoming flowers and this abundance of colors in their life, but none of which matches their own skin tone. It’s meant to express that everything said to them and burdened on them may seem like a favor but is really bringing that individual down instead of uplifting them.

Do you agree that recognizing privilege is better than ignoring the obvious discrimination minorities face? Would you say it’s easy to be outspoken about a comment that wasn’t meant to be oppressive but hurts one’s identity?

Commenting on “Cartographies of Historical Trauma: Hospitable Spaces in African American Literature” by Paula Barba, from the University of Salamanca

Since last February we celebrated Black History Month with some interesting seminars, I decided to attend one called “Cartographies of Historical Trauma: Hospitable Spaces in African American Literature” that took place on February the 27thand was held by Paula Barba Guerrero, a visiting research fellow at the Department of English Studies of my home university, the University of Salamanca, where she is a member of Dr. Manzanas European research project “Erasmus+: Hospitality in European Film.” She is currently engaged in writing her PhD thesis and her research interests include space and border studies, vulnerability and memory, and what hospitality entails for so-called ‘ethnic subgroups’ in the US, particularly for Americans of African descent.

In the seminar she basically explained what her PhD is about, stating that literature has two main purposes: as entertainment and as cultural product, focusing on the fact that identity can be approached through literature and it can be a space to overcome trauma. More importantly, she focuses also on the importance of neo-slave literature, since its focus is not on racial differences (as it happens in slave literature) but on African-American identity and the inner struggle that goes hand in hand with the trauma people from different generations lived: 

1stgeneration: escape the present (Home: Africa)

2ndgeneration: try to forget the past, mimic the new culture (Home: America)

3rdgeneration: remembering the past, sense of not belonging (Where is home?)

Literature is the way to revisit, to change, the way to make history and understand the way of facing and overcoming of trauma. 

I thought it was a good idea to share it with you, since the seminar was really organized and had a great approach, and, even though it was a hard and extensive topic to cover, she managed to make everything clear and interesting to the audience. Moreover, I would like to leave her e-mail here (paulabarbaguerrero@usal.es), just in case someone wants to reach her and ask her about her work, she is really hard-working and enthusiastic about her work, and would be willing to talk with any of you that are interested in the theme.

Conference Schedule & Midterm Rough Drafts

  • Small group conferences are mandatory
  • Homework – paste a link to the draft of your essay to our course website beforehand
    • Google Doc set to “Everyone with the link can comment”
  • Bring a device for viewing/commenting on each other’s draft
  • Arrive five minutes early – Old Main 115E
  • We will focus on thesis statements and questions about the assignment
  • The more writing you bring, the more feedback you can get
  • Active, generous, kind, helpful engagement with your peers’ work is part of your participation grade

Conference schedule

Add a link to your rough draft here

“We speak the same language, the very same”: Overcoming the Language Barrier

Out of the Ordinary

Stuck in a divergent, twisted limbo
filled with a place of tradition and familiarity;
Mixed with an unknown language, peculiar people
and an identity that is
lost in a tornado of unfamiliarity.
Trapped behind a transparent barrier
between her own universe
and their world.

useless.
different.
unwanted.

A strange new world,
one where language and skin color defines who you are.
Her identity is lost
between who she is and who her sister wants her to be.
No place to call home.
Confused with the way of life, here.
Desiring and begging to go back to where she once was.
No place to make her own.

distinct.
foreign.
outcast.

Paranoid delusions fill her mind
and prohibit her from staying sane.
Unable to belong to this new lifestyle,
her new home is an asylum.
People resonate with her,
understand her stories, and her madness.
She does not feel odd.
She is able to find peace among insanity.

United.

Similar to all the other chapters in “The Woman Warrior,” “In the Western Palace” continues presenting this major theme of contrasting cultures. In this story, there is a culture clash between the old lifestyle of Chinese culture represented by Moon Orchid and Brave Orchid and the new lifestyle represented by Moon Orchid’s nieces, nephews, and her doctor husband. Moon Orchid leaves her life of traditions and customs to enter a new life where she must learn to adopt and transition. However, she fails at completing simple tasks and conforming to American life. Along with being pushed behind a language barrier, her sister strongly pushes her to be this “woman warrior” that reclaims her husband and becomes the mother to the other wife’s children. Moon Orchid is unable to confidently succeed with this challenge and ultimately, loses her own identity due to the culture shock in America.

Moon Orchid is unable to develop meaningful relationships with her nieces and nephews due to the language barrier and lifestyle differences. In a way, she is foreign among her biological family. She wanders around the house with a mind filled with questions and pure curiosity. She observes everything that her family does to try and understand their lifestyle. However, the family becomes quickly annoyed and irritated by the presence of their aunt. In one moment she asks one of her youngest niece what she is doing and the niece replies “You’re breathing on me. Don’t breathe on me.” (Kingston, 132). The aunt was simply wondering what the girl was doing and in return, the niece is being extremely hostile. The niece does not want anything to do with her aunt and this is how most of the children begin to feel. It is extremely difficult for the aunt and the children to connect because they are in complete opposite lifestyles. Another moment in the story, the children claim that the aunt is “driving [them] nuts!” (Kingston, 141) and they say this to one another in English infront of their aunt. The children purposely speak in English because their aunt cannot understand them; It is as if the presence of the aunt is a burden among them. It is truly heartbreaking because the aunt is only trying to belong but she is constantly being suppressed. In the end, when she becomes mentally ill, the children state “Chinese people are very weird” (Kingston, 158). This shows how vastly different the children are compared to the aunt. The children base their judgement on their aunt to make a claim about people of their own. They are completely uneducated of their culture which is a problem that Brave Orchid deals with frequently in the story.

Brave Orchid is determined to have her sister reconnect with her husband based on a mythical story from China. However, Moon Orchid does not want to interrupt the lifestyle of her husband but her sister convinces her that she has no other option. Brave Orchid assumes that the traditions in China will fall over into the U.S which is not true due legality. Disregarding the rationality of the situation and Moon Orchid’s feelings, Brave Orchid truly believes that her sister will be able to storm into her husband’s house and become the mother of the other wife’s children. She claims “the children will go to their true mother—you” (Kingston, 125). This absurd mindset leads to an unfortunate situation that causes her sister to become mentally insane. Brave Orchid is misguided by her chinese culture which results in the loss of her sister.

When Brave Orchid unwillingly forces Moon Orchid to see her husband, Brave Orchid does most of the talking. Moon Orchid rarely speaks up and when she does she whispers the question “what about me” (Kingston, 153). Her husband points out the fact that she will never be able to fit in America because she “can barely talk to [him]” (Kingston, 153). This further supports that she is completely trapped behind a language barrier that is interfering her way of life. After he explicitly rejects her, she becomes insane and loses herself completely. In a way, Moon Orchid’s attempt to regain her husband back is an act of holding on to chinese tradition. However, in America a husband cannot have two wives. This completely devastated her into a reality that she is completely lost in this new world. She begins to stop writing which had been her way of communication. Silence is again, a symbol of losing one’s self. The way of life in America is not anything remotely close to what she has was used to in China. When Moon Orchid is in the insane asylum, her last words to her sister are “we understand one another here. We speak the same language, the very same. They understand me, and I understand them” (Kingston, 160). They all speak the language of madness in the asylum which unites them together, in a way that she never felt with her family. For Moon Orchid, language is what caused her to break down. It is ironic that a different type of language made her feel whole again.  

The poem I wrote above is a retelling of Moon Orchid and her struggle to overcome language. It is interesting that she does not feel sane until she is insane. Do you think that Moon Orchid’s insanity is different from Brave Orchid’s strong belief in the chinese myth of the Empress of the East?

Kingston has presented two complex stories of her two aunts to us so far, How are Moon Orchid and the No Name Woman very much alike?

A Tale of Time

The idea of time is portrayed greatly throughout this chapter, through its generational differences among Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid. From the very beginning we see how different the actions among each of them are and how the sisters act in a sophisticated and old-fashioned ways yet also act in ways that shows their new world and old world differences.  For example, in today’s times we usually don’t refer to our mother’s as Mama anymore. However, at the beginning of the chapter Moon Orchid’s children revert to their mother’s only way she is known to be addressed and calls out Mama.

“She [Brave Orchid’s niece] called out, Mama! Mama!’ until the crack in the sliding doors became too small to let in her voice. Many people turned to see what adult was calling, ‘Mama!’ like a child” (117).

Through this quote we see how those that are acclimated to this generation in time, finds the fact that an adult who addresses one’s mother as Mama, is odd.  The simple action of strangers turning their heads in reaction to the children calling out “Mama” shows this generational gap. When Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid were young they were taught the ways of the traditional Chinese women, they were to refer to their mother in the most polite and respectful way and this was that they refer to her as “Mama”. And so this generational method carried on and they taught their children this as well.  Even though the children were now being raised in America, the respectful and traditional ways they were taught came back and were shown in the way they greeted their mother.

This generational gap also was shown when Brave Orchid insisted that Moon Orchid fight back for her husband and claim his children with his new partner as hers. Brave Orchid drills the notion into Moon Orchid’s mind that it is her right and duty to live with her husband no matter what wrong doings he has done. Such as moving to America, and completely cutting her off from communicating with him and not insisting that she move their as well.  

However, although Brave Orchid’s position on the situation between Moon Orchid and her husband shows this traditional way of life. In which, she insists that she chases after her husband despite what he has put her through. The fact that she says if she was in her sisters position, she would stand up for herself and fight for him, shows a more modern approach.  Brave Orchid shares how she would react if she was in her sister’s position,

“Walk right into his house with your suitcases and boxes. Move right into the bedroom. Throw her stuff out of the drawers and put yours in. Say, ‘I am the first wife, and she is our servant” (126).

After this quote by Brave Orchid, Moon Orchid quickly rebuttals and says,

“Oh, no, I can’t do that. I can’t do that at all. That’s terrible” (126).

By this short but powerful dialogue between the two sisters we see a difference in opinions and how different their takes on this situation is.  Brave Orchid shows the side of the future and how women are beginning to stand up for themselves rather than succumb to the man and cave in. And this is quite a change in character for her, all throughout the novel she is shown to depict the traditional women but compared to her isolated and conventional sister she shows characteristics of the new world.  Overall, this chapter really shows how the different environments and types of isolation really shaped each of the sisters and how their childhood combined with their new found experiences made them similar but also very different.

What significance do you think the specific names, Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid, have on each of them as characters? And what do they mean?

All throughout the first chapters of the book, the Brave Orchid (the mother) is fascinated by ghosts and references them non-stop. Even during the whole third chapter the main topic was the different types of ghosts and what they meant. Do you think Brave Orchid somehow “contaminated” Moon Orchid into going crazy and thinking Mexican “ghosts” were trying to kill her?

Women as Symbols of Virtue and Honor

In Maxine Hong Kingston’s book “The Woman Warrior”, I was surprised that it opened with such a detailed anecdote of her fathers forgotten sister, who had been erased from time and history due to the shame she brought their family for conceiving a child behind her husbands back. However, as Kingston elaborates she clarifies that “The other man was not, after all, much different from her husband. They both gave orders: she followed. ‘If you tell your family, I’ll beat you. I’ll kill you. Be here again next week.'” (Kingston, 7). Kingston parallels her husband and the man she sleeps with as being in charge of her, in other words, as a woman her job was to obey any man that commands her to do their will. In this explanation, the adultery and the pregnancy are no longer entirely her fault as her mothers story suggested in the beginning, but they are the fault of a system in which her aunt is given absolutely no agency to have prevented the pregnancy to begin with. Kingston goes on to reveal that, more than likely, “She told the man, ‘I think I’m pregnant.’ He organized the raid against her” (Kingston, 7). As a man he feared his honor would be tarnished if word of his guilt in the adultery got out, and so he decided to be the organizer of the raid to cover his tracks. As a woman, her aunt could do nothing to prevent the raid, the same way she could not prevent her rape, and the same way she could not prevent the dishonor that would be brought upon her family.

Seeing as the book opens up with a tragic history of the forgotten woman, I can’t help but wonder if there is any form of agency that women have in this society. Kingston answers this question with a story about her mother plucking her eyebrows with thread, but when they complained she tells them, “It especially hurt at the temples, but my mother said we were lucky we didn’t have our feet bound when we were seven”(Kingston, 9). Their so called agency lies with their physical body and nothing more, and the way her mother rationalizes the unjust treatment of women and their lack of agency is by referring to history, in other words, things might seem bad to Kingston but for her mother, things had gotten better.

The question I have now is about the agency of women’s bodies versus the women themselves? For example, their hair, and their face and their virginity held so much power, enough power to change the village’s view of their entire family for years to come. That being said, how is it that women as people can lack agency, but women as physical property have enough agency to build or ruin a families reputation?